On the peaceful banks of Parma stream, taking its name from the city and crossing it in two different halves, your walking tour of the city will be leaving from Pilotta Palace, enormous 16th century building having been serving as government seat of Parma Dukes for over three hundred years. The Palace hosted lavish courts of Farnese and Bourbon Dukes in the past, whose luxuries, pump and extravaganza managed to be changing still provincial Parma into a vivacious and stylish city worth of competing with Paris and Vienna. Don’t worry: I will be revealing you all about the court gossip, and you will be discovering the many secrets of the Palace!
But most importantly, prepare for an official reception at court: I want you to be experiencing the enormous, glorious, all wooden built Baroque Farnese Theatre, largest court theatre of all times. Of all Europe. And this is quite something: Farneses did love to be showing themselves off! This is where the court gathered, in order to be enjoying exciting theatrical performances, concerts and extra special events. Prepare to be left breathless!
On the opposite side of Parma stream, the ever glorious-looking Ducal Garden, a lavish, green oasis 21 hectares large. Crossed by avenues and boulevards flanked by two hundred years old oaks, linden trees and horse chestnut trees, the former private garden of the Dukes still strikes for its amazing beauty, fully decorated by statues and fountains.
At a few minutes walking distance, 11th century Parma Cathedral is right at the core of the medieval district of the town: located on a ancient pilgrims’ route connecting Canterbury to Rome, the Romanesque church was built to be welcoming pilgrims and offering them shelter. On the inside, just prepare to be left breathless, once again. I will introduce you to timeless glory of the acclaimed masterpiece here realized by master Correggio in 1524: a huge dome fresco with skies dramatically opening on main altar of Parma Cathedral, Holy Virgin Mary engulfed by a glorious halo of holy, golden light, descending from Heavens, angels and saints welcoming her amid vertiginous, tumultuous clouds.
Flanking the church, majestic Gothic Baptistery of the town is where baptism was conveyed once a year, and only once a year, during Middle Ages, as part of Easter celebrations. All decorated with hundreds of Medieval carved plaques and sculptures, from gargoyles to dragons and scenes from the Holy Scriptures, the building is one of the most beloved spots of all town by Parma citizens, still reaching in here to be admiring it, right after eight hundred years. On the inside, a most amazing set of 13th century frescoes covers the ribs of the dome, opening up in the sky like a giant umbrella.
Finally, we will be reaching Garibaldi Square, lively heart and centre of the city. This is the best spot all across the town to be spying on Parma citizens, here gathering to hear the latest news, having a coffee, or just relaxing and chilling out before lunch. Renaissance Steccata Basilica is where you will be introduced to local master Parmigianino, scholar of Correggio and his direct follower. He worked here for over ten years, extending works infinitely, much to dismay of his commitments, literally horrified by his sinister fame as an alchemist.
Flanking the church is worldwide renown Regio Opera Theatre, symbol of Parma and the passionate love of its citizens for music. After all, it’s no chance Maestro Giuseppe Verdi and orchestral conductor Toscanini were born here, here undertaking the first steps of their monumental career.